Gamers, It’s Time To Get A 1-UP On Hackers
Last week, I received an email from Twitch.tv, a popular live streaming service for gamers.
The first thought that popped into my head was “I’m not even mad, just disappointed”.
(The second thought was that I am slowly sounding more and more like my Dad, but that’s irrelevant.)
Data breaches are a definite scourge of the gaming world, and unless you learn to level up your defense against hackers, you’re liable to lose a lot more than just the game.
What Does Hacking Mean To Gamers?
Hacking and video games have gone hand-in-hand for as long as anyone can remember, and to gamers, it is not always seen as a bad thing.
Many games could be hacked to give players unfair advantages. Even Pokemon can be hacked, and officials have to place strict checks in place to make sure that hacked Pokemon, which are typically stronger than regular Pokemon, are not used in official tournaments.
Hackers have also been providing free versions of games online that could otherwise have cost $60-70, distributing them on sites like The Pirate Bay.
Hacking and scamming are also very common in video games, with many users trying to gain access into the accounts of powerful players, with the intent of stealing their rare items or precious loot.
It’s a large problem which many gaming companies spend large amounts of money to prevent, as well as remediate.
Rated E For Everyone
To understand hacking behavior, It’s important that we analyze the average gamer caught in the crosshairs.
Over 59% of Americans (150 million people) play games, and over 48% of them are female. The average age of the gamer is 31, and 29% of gamers are under 18.
What this all basically means is that gaming is no longer an exclusive club for nerdy teenage boys. Anyone can be, or probably already is, a gamer.
This is in part due to how accessible games are. Just 10 years ago, you would need a high-end computer or a special console just to play video games.
Now, there are thousands of games available on your smartphone, on Facebook, and pretty much everywhere else. There’s even an adorably stupid video game you can play on Google Chrome when your internet is down.
Hack ‘N’ Slash
And if there’s an online community with millions of users, you can bet that hackers will want a piece of it.
If there’s an online gaming platform, you can bet that it’s come under fire at some point.
Both Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s Playstation Network, the two largest console gaming platforms, were hacked last year by the infamous Lizard Squad group. The platforms were taken offline by the hackers, and millions of gamers were unable to login and get their daily doses of virtual jollies.
While not being able to play video games online for a couple of days sounds relatively harmless, it can get much worse.
In 2011, the Playstation Network was hacked for 77 million credit card details. The platform (and Sony in general) have been hit by hackers so many times (more than 10) that at this point, they look like little more than a sandbag to digital thieves.
And even on trusted platforms like Steam, a digital software distribution platform with over 125 million active users, phishing attacks and password scams are rampant.
Let’s not forget the more “casual” gamers playing seemingly harmless 16-bit graphic games on their smartphones during their morning commute. Flappy Bird, a sleeper hit that famously earned its creator $50,000 a day, spawned countless clones, of which 80% contained malware.
And with news of Twitch being the latest casualty, we are reminded that there is no safe haven for gamers from hackers.
You don’t even have to be playing games to get hacked – now you’re equally at risk just watching people play.
Why Us Gamers?
Hackers are not proud creatures- they are like lions in the savannah, going after the weakest gazelles. Phishing scams are designed to target greedy players looking for a quick score, or exploit players afraid of having their accounts lost.
Many hackers are gamers themselves, so they are often familiar with game infrastructures, and they understand the mentality of the average gamer.
In addition, as The Lizard Squad has demonstrated multiple times by going after large gaming networks, it’s a quick way to gain infamy. If you take down a major gaming network, you can bet the entire internet will be abuzz with angry gamers.
Tutorial: Don’t Get Hacked
So how’s an average gamer supposed to defend himself? It’s actually really simple: trust no one.
If you get an email/private message from an “admin” asking you to tell him your password, report him.
If someone offers to sell you in-game items for real money, take every necessary precaution to make sure he doesn’t leave you high and dry.
Before downloading a game (or any application, for that matter) on the App Store, make sure it is a trusted application from a reputable company.
Still, getting hacked is a rite of passage for many gamers, and in a way, it prepares us for the liars and dirty, dirty cheats of the real world.
Gaming platforms and networks can only do so much to keep us safe.
Just like with data security in any other sector, it’s up to every individual to stay vigilant, and take data security seriously.
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